In Guatemala over 54% of people live below the poverty line, with 13% living in extreme poverty. Nearly one-half of under-5s are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. 18.5% of the population aged over 15 cannot read or write.
10-year-old *Sofia’s father mistreats her mother and often fails to give them enough money for food. With Global Care sponsorship paying for Sofia’s education, the local team had their eye on the situation for Sofia and her family. They helped Sofia’s mother file a formal complaint, so she could access protection and support for herself and her children. With the support of the team through the legal processes, Sofia’s mum is now in a safer, more stable position. Throughout, Sofia went to El Centro, where the local team provided emotional support and some stability to her life. The team said, ‘We will continue to support Sofia, with the aim of her having a stable and safe environment to grow up in.’
What are the challenges for street children in Guatemala?
Children end up on the streets because of poverty, abuse, social vulnerability or exclusion. Sadly, street life is too often short, violent and perpetuated by crime.
Children risk further abuse and exploitation, traffic accidents and violent gangs. Most beg or steal to raise money. Cold, hungry, sick and afraid, many street children in Guatemala abuse drugs as a means of escaping from the harsh reality of their lives.
How is Global Care helping street children?
Global Care works with SKD Guatemala, whose innovative work in Guatemala City focuses on rescuing children from the streets, and preventing children taking to the streets (this project was formerly run by Mi Arca).
A team of volunteers go out each week, building trust with vulnerable young people. The project has converted an outreach bus (part-funded by Global Care in 2012) into a mobile clinic, classroom and mentoring centre, providing a safe place for children and young people. Children are encouraged to think about options for leaving the streets. Our partners also seek to support children back into education.
An innovative mentoring programme gives children the support they need, over time, to consider change. The key to successful mentoring is the quality and duration of the relationship, helping a child think about how they can solve their own problems, and acquire skills to make positive choices.
Volunteer mentors are helping street kids change – one step at a time. Mentors gently challenge the children, helping them assess how their decisions affect their own lives, and those close to them. All mentored children are encouraged to go back to school.
El Centro, a day centre, provides a safe place for children on the mentoring programme to seek help and support, to do homework, play and have fun. A new protection shelter offers short-term emergency accommodation to children who need immediate removal from abusive or dangerous situations, while social care authorities explore long-term solutions.